Movement-Moving Machines investigates the ways in which dance acts as part of a media ecology and social practice as emotive, intuitive, physical experience and expression without becoming mere representation. Here, dance movement is understood as a social (semi-)improvisational activity, rather than choreographed steps. What is foregrounded is the idea that movement is relational: it produces space-time and emerges in connection with other moving bodies, the space around them and other non-human actors. By causing interference in social dance contexts and systems that might look like well-oiled machines, the relationality of moving bodies and touch as a social gesture is articulated. Potentiality as the crux of movement is highlighted: “My body is not in movement when I still think I can predict my steps” (Manning, Politics of Touch, 2007: 26)
Movement-Moving Machines aims to provide experiential entrances into an understanding of dance systems as mediated social system. It is a series of contraptions that help investigate the conditions of social dance, music and movement as set by its own materialities, not just meaning and representation. By intervening in the conventions and material relations of a number of dance settings, these useless machines speculate about the politics of dance and touch, the connections we can or cannot make with other bodies and how these are materialized and sustained. But more importantly, how we may cause ruptures in these systems to open them up to a different critique and a more open-ended future.
This was my final research project for the MA Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice I did at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2009-2010. It was exhibited in summer 2010 at the final show, We Are All Transistors.
1. DISTRIBUTED SOUND SYSTEM
This contraption is a system that invites to dance. We are…
Salsa has a history of being a very dispersed musical genre and dance style. Its roots are heavily contested and constantly negotiated. It is literally a mashup of different styles and genres coming together, connected to a wave of immigration from latin american countries to New York, where a latin community quickly emerged in El Barrio, right next to black Harlem. Although salsa’s history was only possible through the relocation of bodies, mixing of nationalities, musical and sexual ‘contamination’ its alleged roots are continuously forced back into the ‘true’ salsa, the ‘real’ roots in Cuba (Salsa Cubana), Puerto Rico, Columbia (Cali style) or Africa maybe? Where salsa is often promoted as a national product. But even on the dance floor, in dance and conversation, the politics of roots are audible and visible in rhythms, movements, and how they are valued, segregated, contained or celebrated.
A number of FM transmitters (the ones often used in cars, with a transmission span of about 3-5 meters) is placed around the dance space. They are all connected to an iPod that plays a certain kind of latin music. They are all tuned in to exactly the same frequency, so they interfere with each other at the borders of their reach. One of the dancers carries a portable FM radio on a belt, that is tuned into this frequency. As the dancers move around the room they will experience the jerky, sudden changes in music that confused their flow continuously. Bodies may interfere with the radio signals that are very unpredictable, making it impossible to control during the dance what music you will be hearing. The delineation of the dance territories are never stable, constantly shifting, being negotiated by the space of bodies, their direction, their disturbing flesh.
For more documentation on the soundscape, see this post.